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Friend relieved to find out missing teenagers died in a car crash 43 years ago

Police detective says he expected 1971 disappearance of two South Dakota teenagers to remain a mystery.
By Frances Burns   |   April 17, 2014 at 3:03 PM   |   Comments

SIOUX CITY, S.D., April 17 (UPI) -- A woman who lost two friends when they vanished in South Dakota in 1971 says it is a relief to know Pamella Jackson and Cheryl Miller died in a car crash.

Police announced this week that skeletal remains found in an old Studebaker in a creek had been positively identified as Jackson and Miller, both 17 when they died.

Investigators said the two died when their car went into Brule Creek as they drove to a party at a nearby gravel pit.

Kathy Wendte of South Sioux City said she had been friends with both girls from childhood. Over the years, she and other friends and relatives had feared the two might have been abducted and killed and even that they might be alive somewhere.

“With it going unsolved for so long you just kept wondering if they were truly somewhere else, and now everybody has closure,” she told the Sioux City Journal. “I’m glad that the family and friends finally know. The families never had closure until now. That’s a long time to wait.”

Ray Hofman, a retired police detective in Vermillion, S.D., who was involved in the investigation, said he had come to expect the girls' fate to remain unknown. Hofman made the original arrest of David Lykken, who became a suspect in the disappearance in 2007 while serving more than 200 years for kidnapping and rape.

“Lo and behold, David was pretty close to where the girls were last seen," Hofman said. "That kind of led us to that area.”

Charges against Lykken were dropped when investigators discovered a jailhouse snitch had fabricated an apparent taped confession to killing the teenagers. This week's announcement clears him of any suspicion.

At Tuesday's news conference, South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley said the 1960 Studebaker Lark was in third gear when it went into the creek and the headlights were on.

[Sioux City Journal]

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